At 89 years old, Norma Brookins still exercises regularly.
She’s been active throughout her life.
In order to “keep going,” Brookins has spent the past 4-5 years dedicated to a fitness program designed with her specific needs in mind.
The Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program is targeted toward people 65 and older or Medicare eligible. The motto “Fitness, Fun and Friendship” encompasses the three aspects of SilverSneakers: To get or stay active, to enjoy life and to forge relationships with others in the program.
The goal of SilverSneakers is to “encourage (participants) to adopt some kind of physically active lifestyle,” said Stacy Daniels, account manager for South Georgia SilverSneakers.
The program is put together through a national programming department; it is designed and scientifically determined for older adults.
“For some people it’s a short-term goal, for others it’s a year,” said Daniels. “A lot tell you ‘I want my independence.’”
Erica Burton, a SilverSneakers instructor at the D.A. Turner YMCA and Fitness Plus, said they incorporate cardiovascular activity, weights, resistance, mobility and stability exercises. “We modify it for their age because it’s really about every day living,” she added.
Many of the exercises mimic daily activities such as getting in and out of a chair or car, reaching for an object that is high on a shelf or opening a jar. Strengthening of the fingers and wrists is one focus for everyday living.
“(SilverSneakers) is about quality of life,” said Burton. “People in their 80s will blow your mind with what they can do.”
Monika Wright, 68, decided to go to SilverSneakers when her doctor told her she had the onset of osteoporosis. Since she started the program in January, her “spine has improved significantly,” she said. “I’m very happy so I’m sticking with it.”
“To be quite honest, when I started here (my life) was just kind of dull,” said Teresa Owens, who has been working out through SilverSneakers at Curves of Columbus since January. “(Now) I feel like I’m 40 again.”
In addition to lowering her blood pressure, losing weight and getting better sleep, Owens has noticed a difference when she’s doing her yard work.
“I don’t have to sit and rest when I mow,” she said. “My doctor said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.’”
Participants tend to find the social aspect of the class just as important and rewarding as the physical workout.
Asked her favorite part of SilverSneakers at the D.A. Turner YMCA, Gloria Ferguson, 66, said, “Visiting with all the people who are taking the class. We come early to stand around and talk, make new friends.”
Owens said that likewise, the Curves community “is like family.”
Instructors find just as much reward in the program as the participants.
Burton, who teaches several different group fitness classes, said what she enjoys most about SilverSneakers is how much fun it is.
“I’m able to give more of myself,” she said. “Here, it’s just a big party. We get to know each other. I can tell a story and we can chit-chat.”
For many people over 65, the cost of SilverSneakers is covered by their insurance company.
Membership in a SilverSneakers program includes free membership to the facility where it is offered, access to participating facilities throughout the country while traveling, health education seminars and access to a senior advisor.
“It’s a blessing to have my insurance program pay for this,” said Owens, who says she wouldn’t be able to afford a Curves membership without it.
If an insurance plan does not include SilverSneakers, a membership to the participating facility must be purchased in order to attend the class. To find out if SilverSneakers is included with your insurance plan, call your health insurance provider or the SilverSneakers toll-free line at 1-800-295-4993.